The whole of the NHS is on a journey to net zero, and no-one is better placed than those working in NHS procurement to lead that transformation and shape its path.
The health service aims to achieve net zero for in-scope emissions by 2040 and intends to boost social value within procurement by tackling economic equality, providing equal opportunities within the workplace, improving wellbeing, fighting climate change and helping communities recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
With this in mind, North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative (NOE CPC) has invested in a sustainability and social value team, to work proactively with suppliers and procurement colleagues, and make real changes in the industry.
Alastair Clay, previously a member of the sustainable procurement team at NHS England, joined NOE CPC as its Sustainability and Social Value manager in April. Since then, Alastair has worked closely with both procurement category teams and suppliers, providing guidance and support on ethical, sustainable practices, and delivering training to suppliers.
In July, NOE CPC became a Non-Medical Category Management Service Provider (CMSP) for NHS Supply Chain: Facilities and Office Solutions, which saw the previous Hotel Services and Office Solutions (Towers 11 and 9) come together to form a new contract.
Anne Toone joined NOE CPC from Tower 9, taking up a role as Governance, Performance and Sustainability Director. She leads a team at the heart of the newly formed contract, ensuring the organisation maximises value to customers and putting greater focus on how it measures and reports its sustainability and social value delivery and targets.
Anne said: “My role was created having recognised the importance of further embedding social value and sustainability within NOE CPC and throughout our customer base and supply chains.
“Our new CMSP contract outlines our commitment to social value. Specifically, tackling workforce inequality, supporting work progression and improving health and wellbeing. I joined at an exciting time at the start of this contract, with an undertaking to make our organisation more inclusive and diverse and to embed sustainability and social value in all of our procurements.
“The specialists within our team will work with stakeholders and suppliers throughout our supply chains to drive sustainability best practice, demonstrating and measuring our value add. “By being at the forefront as an organisation we strive to deliver, across our NHS, better care, better people and a better planet.”
Anne’s team includes Leigh Pratt, Head of Governance and Performance, and Diane Woodham, Sustainability and Social Value Manager, and who both bring with them the experience of working on the previous Hotel Services contract.
Diane said: “We work hand in hand with the national NHS Supply Chain sustainability team, collaborating with them so that we can share expertise and best practice.
“We have access to their latest guidance and are kept fully informed on national policies and initiatives, and the national team can tap into our local knowledge, all of which will ultimately help to make the healthcare supply chain cleaner, greener and more sustainable.”
Kevin Chidlow, CMSP Director at NOE CPC, said the organisation had recognised achieving net zero as a crucial part of its development over the next five years.
“To do that well, and to really make step changes with our suppliers in terms of sustainability and social value, it's important that we have dedicated subject matter experts who drive that change, and are able to support both our internal category team and our suppliers through that process.
“We're fortunate that we've had the opportunity to invest in a dedicated Social Value and Sustainability Manager as part of a broader Governance, Compliance and Quality team led by Anne Toone, who will drive all of that activity.
“Together with Alastair, they will be looking at capability, training and awareness, but also, real hands-on development with suppliers and within the categories to make sure that we carry out reviews to look at what social value and sustainability opportunities will really make an impact. And we need it to really make a difference, so that we build it into our contract management process.” Kevin highlighted the National Healthcare Uniform project as an example of where the organisation needs to make careful, ethical decisions with the help and knowledge of category experts.
“We know that we have to buy products from offshore, and that they have risks because of where they come from, regarding health and wellbeing and labour standards. So, we'll make sure we look at those activities, to drive improvement.”
Our host trust Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT) has subscribed to Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), a global repository of information on sustainable business and labour standards. The site incorporates audit processes which NOE CPC can use to inform its decisions.
Kevin said: “Elsewhere, we'll carry out detailed category reviews to really understand which is the best way of improving sustainability. So, is it by looking at energy reduction in certain categories, such as paper, which is very energy intensive, or is it looking at recyclable materials? Is it looking at how we use products that are coming toward the end of their life? We are in a position to put some really detailed processes in place.
“Linked to that, we’ve also invested in specialist resources to drive our supplier relationship management (SRM) programme. So not only have we got ideas and the initiatives from a sustainability and social value point of view, but we've got a programme and a management process to drive that through to suppliers, through an SRM process, which is all led by Anne's team, so it all works full circle.
“This is now a crucial part of what we do. You can't just do it through your category team. We need to have additional specialists to support it, which we’ve got across the business now. We are really pleased that we're able to invest in that.”
Kevin said Anne and her team would work with suppliers of all sizes, including SMEs, who can find it challenging to keep pace with the latest guidance and policy notices on sustainability and social value.
“But it’s not enough to just make them aware of it,” he said.
“You need to have some specific ideas of how suppliers are going to deliver against it. Otherwise, it's just guidance, and they are saying, ‘yes, I know about that, but do I need to do something?’ Which is where sustainability has been in the past. You have got to have specifics. And that’s why you need people like Diane to be advocates all the time and make sure they do something specific.
“This is a real opportunity to position ourselves as a procurement industry as leaders in sustainability. Historically, we have been seen as obsessed with price, and we have been criticised for it on some occasions. Now, we have an opportunity to ensure sustainability right through the supply chain, and no-one is better placed to do that than procurement. Investing in our dedicated resources accelerates all of that.
“By providing support in the right areas you make it more than the sum of its parts, and by having these specialists, you drive someone forward on SRM or on innovation, which we then give to the procurement team to take and turn into something that’s real. So, the specialists provide the glue that binds it all together and they provide a structure where we can come up with new ideas and turn them into reality.
“Ultimately, we drive better sustainability and we drive better products. And we do all of that quicker and more effectively because of the work that Anne does within her team.
“Together, we add value to the supply chain, and we are much more than just a transactional procurement team. Through good governance and sustainability initiatives, we are driving real change which will have an impact across the industry.”
Date: 20 September